Rounded Posture and Its Role in Sympathetic Overload
A characteristic posture found in new moms while nursing is one where the upper spine is rounded forward, the shoulders are rolled in, and the head is in a downward position gazing toward the baby. This is very similar to the posture you use to text or stare intensely at your computer screen.
There’s more to this posture than we might at first expect. In fact, what this posture can often do is activate your body’s sympathetic nervous system, the underlying mechanism behind feelings of tension, dis-ease, and anxiety where no perceived, external threat is present.
In a real-life encounter with danger, the sympathetic nervous system activates a host of physiological changes in the body, and one of these changes is the change in musculature including posture. In order to begin fighting or fleeing the external threat, the body must physically prepare by rounding the shoulders, moving the head forward, and tensing the backs of the legs .
The chiropractic insight provided here is that this response to external threats can be imitated in a reverse sequence whenever our body assumes this forward bending posture during the day. In other words, just as the sympathetic nervous system response can change our posture for the purpose of our survival, our posture can change our sympathetic nervous system activity, namely by activating it, even though no real danger is present.
Our posture is something we engage in all day long. It’s ramifications on our health are well understood as detrimental in the long run. Here it is shown, that not only is this true, but posture can intricately affect short-term changes affecting our optimal well-being in the here and now.
“Day after day, I’m running around trying to take care of everyone else, leaving myself last on the list,” says one mom who recently visited a chiropractor’s office looking for solutions to her feelings of stress. She sensed that a chiropractor could help her, but what she may not have considered until her first visit was the compounding affect her nursing posture may have had on her feeling rushed, on the run, stressed, and neglected. The posture is a key factor in ramping up, or slowing down, the sympathetic stress response which can manifest as a host of issues in the body and mind. The effects of rounded posture go deeper than neck and back pain—it reaches into the function of the nervous system itself.
1) Sit or stand tall, with your chest open and shoulders down and back. There should be a sensation of the body lengthening upward and expanding outward, with the torso resting on a balanced pelvis and secure lower back.
2) Use a footstool if your feet don’t reach the floor to make sure your feet are connected to a surface.
3) Stretch your muscles and ligaments, including your chest and hamstrings whenever you have the space and time to do so. This is particularly helpful!
4) If applicable, invest in an ergonomic breastfeeding pillow for support (however, I advise the first three options be taken into consideration as more powerful and empowering solutions, to be added to—not replaced—with ergonomic devices)
5) Schedule at least 10 minutes of quiet alone time every day to help reboot your nervous system to autonomic balance.
When stretching the muscles and ligaments, focus on taking full breaths into the area that you’re stretching. By focusing on our breathing, we reach into the fascia and subtle muscle fibers of the tissue. True stretching routines might as well be considered “breathing routines.”
—Pathways Magazine. Read more in Pathways issue #61
Provided and published by ICPA. For more information, visit discoverkidshealth.com